2020 trained us well for 2021. Here’s to being better, sharper, more adventurous and better prepared for whatever this year throws at us. 


Disclaimer: We don’t have any crystal balls, time-travelling DMC DeLoreans or even a Magic 8 ball. We can’t tell you what’s going to happen with any scientific certainty, but here’s what we can do. Our team has a combination of hard-earned global industry experience and we’re lucky to have some of the best minds in marketing specialities (if we do say so ourselves). So we’ve distilled some of our agency leaders’ thoughts, and have outlined their biggest lessons from 2020 and trends for 2021. Here’s to being better, sharper and more adventurous with marketing this year.

1. We’re investing in brand culture and ‘glocality’

Sharon Richey, Global MD
Word for 2020: tumultuous.
“Ten years ago, I wanted to create a global brand-experience group made up of several independent businesses in key markets worldwide. Each business was to have its own USP, and needed to shine at something the senior folk were passionate about. I then worked relentlessly (and still do) to connect these businesses in many ways, and the ‘one team, one dream’ principle helped us tackle 2020. So, this year ’Glocal’ will remain steadfast on my radar – it’s a strategy that works for our clients and us.

Which leads me on to culture. An agency’s culture is just like a rainbow cake, the combination of many wonderful layers is what makes it special. Culture is a massive part of life at Because, and everyone gets involved. In 2021, instead of having individuals as champions, we’ll be mixing it up and having four champion teams across the globe. This will be a seamless way to connect people who would not usually work together and will put the spotlight on important matters such as Diversity & Inclusion, wellbeing, etc.”

2. Hosting events virtually and physically requires creativity

Corinna Homer, Business Director NZ
Word for 2020: resilience.
“Here in NZ, we’re slightly luckier in that we have been able to (for the most part) continue to host live events; however, that can all change in one press conference. It makes for an uneasy planning journey leading up to events, knowing that can change in a second. So, we’ve learnt to be nimble and flexible and to plan for various outcomes, this is where being an independent plays to our advantage. Successful events in 2021 will essentially have three strong and active plans: live events with little or no restrictions; virtual-only versions, to be rolled out if needed; and then there’s the hybrid, where you combine live and virtual options simultaneously. The last is our favourite – we call it multi-dimensional marketing. By planning and using these options, we can ensure success, regardless of the situation.”


3. A culture that supports diversity adapts faster to change

Gareth Brock, Managing Partner ANZ
Word for 2020: flexibility.
“2020 proved having a culture that already supported diversity for our workforce helped us to adapt quickly to the ‘new normal’. It has required understanding individual circumstances, like parents working from home and forced into home-schooling and juggling work. It has also helped us to feel closer as a team, as we often end up saying a quick hello and chat to kids when they join the virtual calls unexpectedly, which is a vast difference from when the loveable kid interrupted the BBC reporter back in 2017! Interruptions from kids, both furry and human, are now a welcome distraction, not a nuisance. For 2021, I envisage a better work and life balance where we have a hybrid of working from home and being in the office. We’ve learnt to trust each other, the work still happens, and the show still goes on, no matter what your position is in the agency.”

4. The future formula of team success: Trust, openness and finding new ways of connecting

Tim Solano, Managing Director UK
Phrase for 2020: Glitter Turd.

“For all my optimism, 2020 was a turd of a year. I missed my family, friends, travel and experiences. Sadly, I’ve directly seen the hardship that this has caused, but I’ve gained too; I’ve learned a lot, and I see the potential of a bright future. As the saying goes, you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.

Covid has been a great physical and emotional leveller; it has forced us to re-build our working and personal lives from scratch. In economic terms, they’re calling it the great reset, a fundamental shift in how, where and why we work, but the biggest change for 2021 is a philosophical one: how do we work together in 2021 and beyond? We’re using three basic principles:

  • Trust. We recruit the right people and give them the tools and framework to deliver. How and where they do that doesn’t need a 3/2 policy or a new coffee-shop-style office. We’ll create an inspiring physical environment and trust our people to work in the most effective way for them, the business, and our clients.
  • Connection. It’s the founding principle of our business. We lost it physically this year, but that’s all. We have key moments of connection hardwired into our business: daily team huddles, weekly meetings and client sessions. These will remain the cornerstone of our business: physical where possible, virtual where not, but fundamentally unchanged. We’ve got a humming rhythm to our business, and we’re going to keep it.
  • Openness. We recognise that this is the beginning of a change in culture, and that there’s going to be some fear and anxiety amongst the old guard who believe you can’t be creative if you can’t be together, and that inspiration comes from kismet at the coffee machine. In part it does, but that also doesn’t mean it can’t come from working virtually with a new inspired global team who’s no longer tethered to London and has the freedom to spend more time with our clients. We’ll remain open to testing new tools and we’ll ‘pivot’ quickly to what works.”
5. We’re banking big on fintech this year

Gwyn Humphreys, Business Director SG
Phrase for 2020: Omnishambles.
“When Covid-19 hit the world, most businesses declined. There were only a few which showed an upward trend; the FinTech industry was one of them. As we look ahead, there are many ways FinTech will continue to grow; here are three of the most important:

  • Due to social distancing, there will be a boom in the variety of mobile payment options. Here in Singapore, we’re familiar with having multiple payment options, but these options will now become standard across Europe and the US. It will broaden access to wider audiences and allow a boost in eCommerce, especially for SMEs by making payments quicker and easier – just like Singapore has seen recently.
  • The rise of embedded finance is crucial because it’s the biggest existential threat to financial institutions. Social networks like Facebook and aggregators like Uber will soon be offering most of the services that people use banks to accomplish today. So, what will this mean for traditional banking?
  • Finally, and the most exciting area from a humanitarian point of view, is increasing access to the unbanked. According to the World Bank, there are almost 1.7 billion people in the world who are unbanked as they don’t have access to banking facilities. Most of these people are from developing nations. The mobile phone penetration in these countries is high though, making them perfect for FinTech apps. This trend will improve financial inclusion by making access to financial services easy, fast, and convenient for the unbanked.”
6. We’re going to need passion, compassion, humour and style

Meredith Cranmer, Co-founder and MD ANZ
Phrase for 2020: CTRL + ALT + DELETE (with photo of burning portaloos).
“2020 was about survival, but in many ways, we thrived. We connected better as a global team and realised a lot of our ambitions given the headspace provided by Covid-19. The phrase above is inspired by my favourite quote by Maya Angelou, as I’m a firm believer that for businesses to thrive, it starts with your people and culture, and I love seeing us connecting people’s personal values and ambitions with the work we do. Add a dash of humour and style (who doesn’t want both at work?!) and we’re onto a winner!”


7. Technology will help us live and work smarter in 2021

Joss Davidge, Global Innovation Director
Phrase for 2020: empowerment. The world has thrown away hundreds of years of employment culture to embrace a better balance of working and living.
“Technology in 2021 will focus on making life easier and quicker for people now that we have flipped into a new reality for both work and home life. So, what do I expect? Smoother video conferencing with better sharing; widespread use of VR; more forms of ‘always on’ listening tech, so we don’t need to dial to talk or see anyone. Cameras and microphones will become more widespread (especially linked to TV’s), so we won’t have to carry around a laptop all the time. The use of VR and AR will be ramped up in brand experiences, and offer new opportunities in contact-free, Covid-smart interactions. One of my latest finds turns your phone into a digital wand. It enables customers to interact with digital displays (contact-free of course) without downloading any apps, and it can instantly transform into a second-screen remote control by scanning a QR code.

With fewer people commuting, the cash saved from transport will be put into home improvements and tech improvements. They’ll also have more time for family and leisure, and once again, new technology will provide opportunities in these areas, including gaming, and home workouts. There will be more ‘local’ events and ‘down my street’ type apps, as well as ones that allow people to share their social life in new ways. One example: Pinza, a new app that’s all about sharing social time and content but built around plotting your journey and time on a map.

But that’s not all: I expect new tech that will help people move out of the cities and into the country or outlying areas due to the remote working migration and a host of new ‘prepper’ apps that help people prepare for the next pandemic. Lastly, I suspect that at some point soon, we will need to have a digital passport that shows our details, what vaccinations we have had, what countries we have traveled to, and maybe even the number of people we’ve recently been in close proximity to. It will be our green card for freedom, and those that don’t sign up for it will have limited opportunities.”

There’s no doubt 2021 is going to bring with it its own set of challenges, but as a team, we’re all on the same (digital) page: the brands and companies who take smart risks will be rewarded with growth and a future-proof bottom line. And of course, we’re always here if you need a helping hand. Here’s to getting back up, dusting 2020 off, and hitting our brand goals this year!

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Author bio


I'm an award-winning entrepreneur, a passionate business mentor, and I believe that great things can happen when we work together to help others.